Frustrated with his university computer science courses, Sheldon Malboeuf decided to drop out and enroll at Lighthouse Labs in Montreal. Halfway through the bootcamp, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Sheldon’s in-person program online. Learn how Lighthouse Labs’ personalized instruction and job-relevant programming languages and skills seamlessly transitioned into a remote learning space for Sheldon. Plus, Sheldon outlines how Lighthouse Labs’s career services helped him land a remote developer job at Media Carry!
What inspired you to leave your Computer Science degree and enroll at Lighthouse Labs?
I’ve been into tech my whole life and I even taught myself C# to figure out how video games worked. But after three semesters in my Computer Science program at university, I abandoned it. The university path killed my passion for programming. There was a lot of theory and not much application. I only had the opportunity to code for two out of twelve classes! It seemed like my university education was more focused on grades than actually learning. I wanted to try another way to become a programmer and pursue my passion, so I checked out a Facebook event hosted by Lighthouse Labs — they rekindled my love for coding.! After that event, I got hooked on the idea that I should pursue a web development bootcamp instead.
Did you research any other coding bootcamps before choosing Lighthouse Labs?
I actually used Course Report to make my decision! I considered Le Wagon and Concordia, but based on the Course Report reviews for Lighthouse Labs, the curriculum seemed to be more my style. I also liked that their program was two weeks longer than Le Wagon. I assumed Lighthouse Labs would be able to teach us more with that extra time. I also had an acquaintance who went to Lighthouse Labs, and that helped me to confidently make my decision.
What was the Lighthouse Labs application process like? Did you have to complete any pre-work?
Initially, I applied online through a simple form asking for my contact info and a quirky fact like, "What's your superpower?" After that, there was an online interview where they asked me what my motivation for coding was and what I wanted to do with my education. That interview included a 15-minute coding/logic challenge in order to gauge where I was at with coding concepts. The questions dealt with scope but were not in code format. Lighthouse Labs emailed me afterward to let me know that I had been accepted.
What did you think of the teaching style at Lighthouse Labs? How was it different from your Computer Science classes at university?
The teaching quality at Lighthouse Labs is absolutely phenomenal. I can't say it enough! Lighthouse Labs focuses on your individual learning and gave me what I was lacking with my university experience. They have teachers and mentors who have experience in the tech field. The instructors are smart and teach you the tricks to coding that you don’t learn at university. Right away, Lighthouse Labs was teaching me how to program. They used real-life experiences to teach me how to fix errors and problems in my code. The mentor service was amazing, too. It's the best part of the bootcamp because if I didn’t have it, I would waste so much time on little errors.
The lectures at Lighthouse Labs were also super clear. We had a two-hour lecture every morning where the teacher would code live in front of us. The teachers were well-spoken, and they knew how to make connections from basic theory to real-life examples. It also helps that the bootcamp class sizes are small. In my Computer Science university classes, there would be anywhere from 50 to 100 students. Compare that to Lighthouse Labs classes of four to nine students! The smaller classes help introverted people by making it more inviting for them to ask questions. I always had questions in my university classes, but as soon as class was done, there was a long line of students at the front of the class looking to speak with the professor. Lighthouse Labs encourages questions and makes sure you aren't lost.
How did Lighthouse Labs help you to transition from on-campus classes to remote learning when the COVID-19 crisis forced everyone online?
The day I presented my midterm project was the last day on campus, so I had a 50/50 split between an on-campus and remote bootcamp. Having both of those experiences was valuable – it prepared me to have the skills to work and communicate properly online as well as in-person. I liked going to the Lighthouse Labs campus in-person and having it be separate from my home life, but going remote also eliminated four hours of commute from my day.
The Lighthouse Labs curriculum infrastructure was already in place to handle the transition to online well. You login to their Compass platform, and there is the lecture and work for you to do. When I moved online, the only thing that changed was how they gave mentor support to the students. When you needed help there was a "Request a Mentor" button. When a mentor takes your request, a Google hangout icon pops up, and you're able to share your screen so they can code alongside you. To interact with my cohort peers, we initially created a Discord server to ask questions, but we also used Slack. To do the live lectures, we used Zoom and Google Meet. Lighthouse Labs would also record those lectures and post it afterwards with GitHub notes. I liked that they recorded lectures because you can access the history of that lecture done by other teachers from other cohorts within Compass. If you prefer the teaching style of a specific teacher, you can watch their lectures and see how they explain the same subjects. Plus, it’s screenshared, just like a code-a-long.
Do you have any advice for a remote bootcamp student?
The easiest trap to fall into is becoming too comfortable at home. Lighthouse Labs gave us recommendations when we started learning remotely. One piece of advice they gave us is to pretend that you are still physically going to work. You should wake up at a reasonable hour, get dressed, and don't work in your pajamas.
What did you learn in the Web Development Diploma Program curriculum at Lighthouse Labs?
What projects did you work on at Lighthouse Labs?
During the first half of the bootcamp, we focused on how to approach coding problems and fix them. My midterm project was picked out of a list of app projects. There were three people in my group, and we were responsible for building a Pinterest clone. It was helpful to have a code base that we were using throughout the bootcamp to look back on and refresh our memory, such as our Twitter clone and TinyApp, which shortens your URLs. Later in the bootcamp, we built a scheduler in React, which was a huge learning curve.
We were partnered up for the final project, which had a two-week deadline. My partner and I decided what app we wanted to build and we had a week and half to program it and then a few days to create the presentation. Because of COVID-19, Lighthouse Labs switched to a virtual demo day for our final projects. There were virtual booths for my partner and I to enter, and there was a chatroom where you showcase your final project. Employers could join in and ask questions via video, voice, or typed chat.
How did Lighthouse Labs prepare you for the job hunt?
Lighthouse Labs does a good job at preparing you to enter the job force. We had a lot of workshops on resumes, cover letters, skill-building, and how to present yourself. Whiteboarding was constantly a part of the curriculum – we had four total whiteboarding interviews. They taught me how to properly express my thought process when whiteboarding.
My career service representative is my go-to person when I have any questions about career things or possible employers. She's amazing! I only just graduated, but she already sends me info about employers looking to hire in Montreal as well as other places in Canada. She also gave me specific job listings and showed me where to look for jobs. She wants me to check in with her once a week to see how the job hunt is going and offer help. Lighthouse Labs is also in the process of setting up speed interviews. Normally, this was done in-person, but they are creating an online platform that will allow us to virtually interview with potential employers.
How did you approach your remote job search?
I was open to all opportunities, remote or in-person. I was sending out resumes while I continued to code to keep my skills sharp. During my job search, I was looking at Web Developer and Game Developer positions, with my eye on Unity (a game engine).
I love to organize my day and have a routine, so I tried to mimic a nine-to-five workday and keep the momentum from the bootcamp going. From 9am to 12pm, I sent out resumes. After lunch, I coded and posted my code on GitHub so employers could see that I’m active and sharpening my skills. I also continued to work on my final project with one of my classmates after graduation. We have been constantly working to keep our project updated while I've been doing my own side projects. I've been trying to get a variety of code in and not stick to one thing too much. A lot of us from the Lighthouse Labs cohort have been keeping in touch through LinkedIn and Slack.
You landed a software engineering job during a pandemic – How did you get the job?
I just accepted a position as a Full Stack Developer at ecommerce company Media Carry! Media Carry is based in Scotland, but my developer position will be completely remote. Lighthouse Labs actually referred me to Media Carry. The Lighthouse Labs career services team really went above and beyond at helping me to succeed! I’m not super familiar with the projects that I will be part of at Media Carry, but I’m already creating a tool for them and it’s been a great experience.
What is your advice to other bootcampers who are on the job search right now?
The best advice I can give for people looking for a remote developer job or jobs in general is to remain consistent in your search. Check the job boards every single day and try applying to jobs even if you aren’t sure if you have all the skills. Remember that there’s no harm in trying!
Are you happy that you went down this route and graduated from a coding bootcamp?
Absolutely. I know a lot of people who struggle with being stuck at home during quarantine. I was grateful to have this program to put my full energy into and be productive with my time. The economic situation is unfortunate and there are less people hiring right now, but there is still opportunity. You just have to work a little harder for it.
Looking back, would you recommend a computer science degree or a coding bootcamp?
In my opinion, if you know exactly what you want then definitely do a bootcamp. The people at coding bootcamps are motivated. They know exactly what they want to do. If you know you want to get into web development, coding bootcamps are a more efficient, cost-effective way of doing so.
What has been your biggest roadblock in your journey to becoming a Developer?
My biggest roadblock is the Lighthouse Labs’s motto: "Be comfortable being uncomfortable." They hammer it into you throughout the program. As a developer, you are constantly thrown into uncharted waters. You have to break a problem down and handle it bit by bit. That's the hardest thing to do. There are frustrating problems you'll face and you can't let it ruin your day, you have to learn to embrace it and enjoy the challenge. I get errors that I can spend hours trying to figure out, just to realize it was only a semicolon or one character off from working perfectly. Keep in mind that your patience will grow with your experience.
Jess is the Content Manager for Course Report as well as a writer and poet. As a lifelong learner, Jess is passionate about education, and loves learning and sharing content about tech bootcamps. Jess received a M.F.A. in Writing from the University of New Hampshire, and now lives in Brooklyn, NY.
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